Entering last Sunday's race at Dover, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was right on the edge of being eliminated from the postseason. Stenhouse was in close battle with a handful of other drivers, and he and his team knew they'd have to be bold if they wanted to advance to the Round of 12.
Stenhouse and his crew chief, Brian Pattie, gambled on a few pit decisions, and their strategy paid off as Stenhouse finished two points ahead of Ryan Newman. Instead of pitting, Stenhouse decided to stay on the track and hope for a caution flag while other drivers were on pit road.
He was fortunate enough to get the caution flag after Jeffrey Earnhardt hit barrels at the pit entrance, and Stenhouse capitalized and earned points during Stage 1. Now he'll have at least three more races left in his season, which is a big step for him and his team.
"We feel lucky," Stenhouse said. "We caught the caution there at the right time. (Brian) Pattie kept us out. Great strategy and it paid off. We were able to get some stage points, and really that was the turning point of our day.
NBC NASCAR analysts Steve Letarte and Parker Kligerman both praised Stenhouse and Pattie for the bold strategy.
"It was a two-point battle," Letarte said. "Brian Pattie, having the courage to make both those pit decisions is exactly what Brian and Ricky need to continue to do throughout the entire playoff sequence."
"It was just amazing, courageous calls by Brian Pattie and that 17 team," Kligerman said. "I just think this is one of the gutsiest, coolest drives I've seen in modern day NASCAR, knowing what they were up against and knowing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was told this was one of the most important races in Roush Fenway Racing history, to get into the second round of the playoffs, and to get out and make it happen."
Stenhouse and Pattie will have to continue employing bold strategies over the next three races if they want to move to the Round of 8.
(h/t NBC Sports)